In a significant move, Thailand is setting sail on a journey to establish its own national shipping line, as confirmed by government officials. The initial focus of this ambitious endeavor will be on domestic shipping routes, catering to ports currently underserved by private companies. This decision comes on the heels of Thailand’s determination to reinvigorate its shipping industry, which had been disbanded over a decade ago due to sustained losses.
Reports from 2021 indicated that Thai shipping operations accounted for less than 10 percent of the nation’s total goods transport. In response, the Thai government is now actively planning to initiate operations with four containerships serving eight domestic routes, with an annual handling capacity of 31,000 TEU. This move is expected to contribute around two percent to Thailand’s import and export trade. There are also considerations for expanding into international shipping routes in the future.
During 2021, the country’s Port Authority began a feasibility study, exploring the possibility of a fully state-owned operation or forming a public-private partnership. The latter option involved a private company owning a 51 percent stake in the partnership, with a primary focus on domestic goods transportation from various regions to Bangkok for export. The Deputy Transport Minister has ordered a follow-up study, and the final decision on the ownership approach will be presented to the country’s cabinet. Notably, the Port Authority appears to favor the public-private partnership due to its quicker startup potential and ease of administration.
Thailand is not the only country considering the establishment of a national shipping line in response to the challenges posed by the pandemic and surging shipping volumes. Countries like Vietnam, emerging as a major manufacturing hub in Southeast Asia, and even more developed nations like Australia, have ordered studies to revitalize their national shipping industries. For Australia, this move is driven not only by economic interests but also by national security concerns.
While the report does not provide a specific timeline for Thailand’s feasibility efforts, this development underscores the country’s commitment to strengthening its trade infrastructure through the establishment of a national shipping line.